Irenaeus

Saturday, Sept. 10                             

Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, studied under Polycarp before leaving to study under Justin Martyr and then appointed bishop of Lyon, France, in 178 A.D.  He strongly defended the faith, particularly against the Gnostics.  The Gnostics claimed they had “secret oral traditions” passed on to them by Jesus.  Those beliefs included Docetism, which taught that Jesus only seemed to have a human body and that He really didn’t suffer on the cross, and Marcionism, which taught that God couldn’t possibly die; He had a human body united with a divine Spirit.   The one denied Christ’s humanity and the other, his divinity.  Irenaeus’ most noted writing was a detailed denunciation of Gnosticism entitled  “Against Heresies.”  He held to orthodox doctrine, although he based it on tradition and the authority of the bishops as much as on the Scriptures.  But we need to remember that “Scripture” mostly meant the Jewish Bible, what we call the Old Testament.  New Testament writings were being accepted as canonical, but the New Testament was a long way from being complete.  Several of Irenaeus’ quotes are superb.  “The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.”  Sounds like John Piper!  “Because of his boundless love, Jesus became what we are that he might make us to be what he is.”  Polycarp and Irenaeus are just two of many faithful apologist-theologians of the first two centuries—outstanding among them, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, and Ignatius.

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